Reducing Waste in the Kitchen - Food Packaging

One of my 'green' goals for 2011 is to reduce our waste even more. Christmas got a bit crazy with all the wrapping paper and packaging. It always makes me feel bad seeing all the trash on the curb. Fortunately, during the rest of the year I don't think we even fill a trash bag a week and can go a couple pick-ups without putting the trash out just fine (not on purpose I will add...). I'd like to start addressing the main areas of waste in our house and see where we can reduce it even more, starting in the kitchen.

Starting with food packaging.
We make most things from scratch; tortillas, cookies, cakes, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, the only thing I can think of that we do not make ourselves is sandwich bread, mostly because I just don't dig my bread making skills when it comes to sandwiches. So we probably have one or two plastic bread bags a week and a bag from rice and pasta once a week too, not too bad. These can of course be used as trash or lunch bags but we have reusable lunchboxes already. What else can they be reused for? Are they recyclable?

We buy organic whole wheat flour in bulk, generally in a 25lb box when it is in stock which eliminates 5 or so paper flour bags we'd otherwise buy. But then there is the box to deal with; I use those to ship co-op orders and store the flour in jars. Other flours, sugars, chocolate chips etc (besides yeast and cocoa) are bought at the store, though I am beginning to look into buying those in bulk too, hoping to find them all on amazon for a reasonable price so I can use my gift cards and get it all for free!

Beans, couscous, quinoa, raisins, oats, seeds, nuts and some other items come from the bulk bins at our grocery store. Their prices are great for organic products compared to their pre-packed equivalent. But they still use plastic baggies. Well, unless you have some of these! Which I love, but the next batch will have cotton drawstrings, the wool felted in the wash, of course, what was I thinking? When we run out of the rice and pasta we already have I will start buying it from the bulk bins I think to cut down on more packaging.

Meat comes from a local farm so is in vacuum sealed plastic, it doesn't however have the styrofoam trays store bought meat has so that helps a little.

And our produce? It either just rolls free if it's a more hardy fruit or vegetable or they go into BYOBs, I ran a co-op for these a while back and love them! The only thing that goes into one of those plastic produce bags is the head of broccoli because it is usually dripping wet from the veggie sprayer. Are bags that frozen produce come in recyclable? I am getting quite the long list of things to research!

Lastly, there is of course, the plastic bags you bring your groceries home in. Or don't if you've already taken advantage of the $1 reusable cloth bags most stores have now or made your own or otherwise. Not only do they hold more than the average plastic bag, reducing the number of trips I take from the car to the house but they can also save the world! (a little) "Earthbound Farms estimates that if everyone in the United States used one reusable bag instead of a plastic bag, just ONCE a week for a year we would keep more than 16 BILLION disposable bags out of landfills." -- just be sure to wash them every now and then (especially if they've been carrying meat)!

How do you reduce waste in your kitchen when it comes to food packaging? Do you use reusable bags for anything? Did you make them? I love links!


Sarah MP said...

What a great post! I've never seen those BYO bags and I love them. Leaving your produce in those plastic bags in the fridge also makes them decay faster so this would help us break that habit too.

Zaira said...

it does? I didn't know that! but it makes sense, since switching I have noticed our produce lasting longer!

Kristin said...

I have a couple of lingerie bags that I use for produce that isn't as hearty, but isn't sopping wet either (kiwi, pears, etc.). I typically rinse and dry my frozen veggie bags/other misc plastic bags and take them to the plastic bag recycling bin at WM or Target.

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